HEART ATTACK (MYOCARDIAL INFARCTION)
A myocardial infarction, or heart attack, occurs when the blood supply to the heart is stopped. When this happens a part of the heart muscle dies unless the flow of blood is re-started very soon. The blood supply to the heart is provided through the coronary arteries, and these can become blocked for a number of reasons. The most common cause is furring up of the arteries, named atherosclerosis. Heart disease caused by furring up of the arteries is a very common condition, and is more frequent in men than in women. Heart attacks are more common as people get older.
The heart needs the oxygen and glucose (sugar) and nutrients that are carried in the blood; when this flow is stopped - even for a short time - there can be serious damage to the heart. The symptoms of a heart attack can include chest pain, which may travel up to the neck or shoulder and down the arm (most commonly the left, but sometimes the right). This is often described as 'tight' or 'crushing'. Associated symptoms include palpitations (feeling your heart beat quickly) dizziness; and indigestion or nausea. However, there can be no symptoms at all, or very few, particularly in elderly people and those with diabetes.
A heart attack is a very serious condition, and this is why doctors and nurses take chest pain - even when it is not particularly troublesome - very seriously. The treatment for a heart attack must be started very quickly, and so anyone who you think is having a heart attack must be taken to hospital as soon as is possible.
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